Synthetic cannabinoid substances, such as K2, were recently banned on TCU’s campus due to the dangerous health effects associated with the drug, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Don Mills said.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, the agency banned the substances in cannabinoids, such as JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-200, CP-47,497, and cannabicyclohexanol, nationwide March 1 and made it illegal to sell or possess the substance or those ingredients. The ban will be in effect for at least one year, during which the DEA and the Department of Health and Human Services will study the substance and determine whether to keep the ban in place permanently.
The synthetic drug was perceived as a legal alternative to marijuana and was typically advertised as herbal incense or plant food. According to the DEA, reports were issued by numerous state and local public health departments and poison control centers describing the adverse health effects associated with K2. These include anxiety attacks, vomiting, seizures and elevated blood pressure. Additionally, the effects on the central nervous system can be potentially life-threatening, according to the DEA.
Mills said the problem with substances like K2 was that it was an uncontrolled substance.
“There was no way that a purchaser could know what the ingredients were,” Mills said. “We had students that smoked K2 and had to be hospitalized because they were so dangerously affected by it.”
TCU Police Sgt. Kelly Ham said they were seeing numerous instances of K2 use on campus.
“We were confiscating marijuana and K2 probably three or four times a week,” Ham said. “I’ve only seen one [student] on K2, and that poor kid was sick to death.”
Ham said many students purchased their K2 at Fusion, Inc., a popular smoke shop located near campus.
Fusion employees declined to comment.
Associate Vice Chancellor of Campus Life Susan Adams said the reason TCU took action to ban substances like K2 on campus was partly because several students were reported to have experienced very serious health problems after using the drug.
“Our main concern is keeping TCU students healthy and safe,” Adams said.
Since it was legal, Adams said most students smoked K2 as a substitute for marijuana but said that the synthetic cannabinoid was much more dangerous.
“I honestly don’t think students think the drug is harmful,” she said. “The chemicals thrown together have no regulation, and that is really frightening.”
Senior Spanish major John Andrew Willis said he felt the banning of K2 was a good idea.
“It seems to have a lot of chemicals in it that most people wouldn’t want to put in their body,” Willis said.
But he said he did not feel students would stop smoking K2 just because it is now illegal.
“I think there [are] enough people that don’t really care about harming their bodies that will still continue to use it regardless,” he said.
Mills said K2 was not as easy to find as marijuana, but if it is found it will be treated as a zero tolerance situation.
As of March 1, Ham said K2 will be treated just like marijuana.
“It is illegal, and students will be charged,” he said.